Having just returned from a junket to Peoria, Johnny P was pleased to be my guest at Milano Restaurant & Bar in the Newton Plaza, Loudonville, recently. The cool drizzly evening had not dampened his spirits.
Large flower boxes in front of the pane glass windows and around the canopied patio overflowed with giant pinkish-orange begonias, cascading neon coleus and lime green sweet potato vines, lending a lush opulence to Milano’s welcoming facade.
It was a quiet evening and we were seated immediately at a modestly glittery black granite four-top table set against a curving banquette with two chairs on the opposite side of the table. A small menu for daily specials, as well as a large standard menu (both available online) provided lively reading material as we waited for our beverages.
Names of dishes on the menu are written in Italian, while descriptions and ingredients are explained in English. I enjoyed the challenge of the dual languages; it stretched my linguistic skills. Categories were the usual: Antipasti, Insalata, Carne & Pesce, Pasta and Pizza. The specials of the day also included categories like International Cheeses, From the Sea, Soups, Oysters and Risotto.
After delightful deliberation, we narrowed our selections down to two salads ($11 and $12), two entrees ($34 and $28) and a single dessert to share ($8).
The daily Salad Special caught John’s eye: cantaloupe, fresh caviogne (cavaillon) melon (a relative of the cantaloupe grown primarily in Provence, France), bacon, candied pecans, gorgonzola and arugula with strawberry basil vinaigrette. He thoroughly enjoyed the combination of ingredients, but wished the kitchen had been more generous with the gorgonzola.
On the other hand, he pronounced outstanding his Arrosto di Anatra, wood oven roasted duck breast (duck confit, fingerling potatoes, charred radicchio, apricots, apples, seasonal vegetables with sage marsala demi-glace). The duck was prepared to a perfect medium/medium rare, and the meat was attractively splayed out like a hand of cards. Crisp tender green beans provided a splash of jade around the Frenched duck bone. A small pool of glossy demi-glace corralled the items on the dinner plate. Not a drop or a morsel was taken home.
My own dinner fared just as well. Insalata di Barbabietole (roasted gold and yellow beets, pistachios, chevre, mixed greens with citrus vinaigrette) was too acidic for my taste buds, but otherwise, the colorful dish was immensely pleasing.
The Risotto dish on the menu of daily specials boasted cabernet-braised veal osso bucco (a favorite of mine rarely found on menus), heirloom carrots, leeks, mushrooms, spinach, braising jus, parmigiano reggiano and of course, risotto. Unfortunately, the flavorful reddish “jus” permeated the risotto to the point where it had lost its individuality.
Nevertheless, the result was intensely flavorful. The osso bucco meat was wrapped around a two-inch slice of marrow bone with the rich marrow still intact — but not for long.
We were planning to avoid dessert until our highly competent server Odessa, who had provided us with perfectly paced service and wise suggestions, mentioned chocolate flourless cake. The dainty dark wedge ($8) arrived on a long white plate, decorated with a small swirl of whipped cream dotted with a few blueberries, and festooned with ribbons of chocolate and raspberry sauce. The dessert took on the appearance of an edible work of Miro. I permitted small forkfuls of flourless confection to melt on my tongue as I sipped steaming espresso. Coffee and chocolate — mocha in a most agreeable manner.
It wasn’t until we were leaving that I noticed the three huge terra cotta urns set at strategic points in the dining room. Fifty tables of varying heights and sizes, some accompanied by regular chairs, while others were tucked inside the soft curves of autumnal striped banquettes. Muted colors, overstated decorations, and superb food and service made our dinner at Milano’s a near-perfect experience.
Milano Restaurant & Bar
WHERE: 594 New Loudon Road, Newton Plaza, Loudonville (518) 783-3334 www.milano-restaurant.com
WHEN: Mon lunch 11:30am-3pm, dinner 5pm-9pm; Tues-Thurs 11:30am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm; Fri 11:00am-3:00pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm; Sat 12pm-10:30pm, Sun 4:30pm-8:30pm
HOW MUCH: $103.50 with 1 bottle of sparkling water and 1 espresso, but without tax and tip
MORE INFO: large parking lot, credit cards accepted, moderately noisy, accessible, daily specials, gluten-free and vegetarian dishes, non-smoking, online reservations and ordering and delivery, catering, gift cards, special events